Rhubarb – 3 ways: rhubarb and custard cheesecake, rhubarb curd, and rhubarb crumble cake

Celebrating VE Day with traditional English tea time treats, given a home grown twist… and joining #Fiesta Friday 327

I’m joining Angie and lots of inspirational bloggers this week with #Fiesta Friday – celebrating the best of Home Grown on this VE Day in the UK but looking forward to popping over to see what others around the world are up to over the weekend…

We have copious amounts of rhubarb, as it’s truly deer and rabbit proof. Although only planted into new beds a couple of years ago, filling the beds with beautiful crumbly home made compost ensured that the plants established quickly, and are hugely productive. A wonderful opportunity to experiment with all things ‘rhubarb’. Here are three classics, given a seasonal twist to celebrate the rhubarb season.

Rhubarb and Custard Cheesecake

250g ginger nut biscuits 

80g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the tin

650g full-fat soft cheese

170g golden caster sugar

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 Tbs cornflour 

4 Tbs custard powder 

1 tsp vanilla extract 

200 ml soured cream 

RHUBARB SAUCE

  • 200g rhubarb, roughly chopped (see note, below) 
  • 50g caster sugar 
  • Half a lemon, zested 
  • Half a Tbs cornflour
  • 35g unsalted butter 
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pink food colouring (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 160C / gas 3.

2. For the base, whizz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor, then add the melted butter and whizz again. Press the crumbs into the base of a lined, round loose-bottomed 23cm tin (use the bottom of a heavy glass to push it down for a more even layer).

3. Bake the base in the oven for 10 minutes, then cool.

4. To make the rhubarb sauce, put the rhubarb in a pan with 1 tbsp water, the caster sugar and lemon zest, bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

5. Transfer to a food processor and blend to a purée. Add the rhubarb back to the pan and leave to cool slightly.

6. Mix the cornflour with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp of the purée, and add to the pan. Bring back to a simmer, whisking on a high heat until thickened. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the butter. Leave to cool slightly, then gently whisk in the egg until fully incorporated, transfer to a bowl, add a little colouring, if you like, then leave to cool.

7. For the filling, beat the soft cheese for a minute until smooth, add the sugar and beat again. Add the eggs and egg yolk, cornflour, custard powder and vanilla, and mix again until well combined.

8. Fold through the soured cream.

9. To assemble, spoon half the cheesecake mix onto the biscuit base. Dollop over half the rhubarb sauce then add another layer of cheesecake mix and dollop over the rest of the sauce. Use a skewer to swirl the rhubarb into the cheesecake.

10. Put on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 1 hour until the mixture is set but still has a slight wobble. Turn the oven off and leave the oven door slightly ajar, then allow to gently cool for a further hour.

11. Remove from the oven and put in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.

Recipe originally from Olive Magazine

2. Rhubarb Curd

400 g/4 long stalks rhubarb

3 large eggs 

170g / 3/4 cup unsalted butter cubed

3 tsp cornflour

150 g / 3/4 cup caster sugar

(drop of pink colouring – optional)

  1. Wash and cut rhubarb stalks in 2″ sections, put them in the bowl of a food processor and process until then turn into a pulp.
  2. Push the pulp through a fine sieve to extract all the juice, then set the pulp aside for another use. You should get about 300 ml/ 1 1/4 cup of rhubarb juice.
  3. In a food processor, mix eggs, sugar and cornflour until you have a homogenous mixture with no lumps. (Alternatively you can do this step by hand using a bowl and a whisk).
  4. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of rhubarb juice, egg, sugar and corn starch mixture and cubed butter, set the pan over low heat and star cooking it while stirring with a whisk the entire time until butter melts and the curd thickens. Do not turn the heat up to speed up the process or the eggs will turn into scrambled eggs!
  5. Take off the heat when the curd is the consistency of thick sour cream.
  6. Push curd through a fine sieve again to ensure there are no lumps and that it is silky smooth. Add the remaining rhubarb juice to increase the tart flavour of the rhubarb and a drop of pink food colouring if desired as the curd loses its colour when cooks!
  7. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight. The rhubarb curd will thicken when chilled.

Recipe from Vikalina’s blog; full of inspiration for the eye, and taste buds!

3. Rhubarb Crumble tray bake / muffins

Makes 16 tray bake slices. Or bake in muffin tins, for individual cakes.

Crumble topping:

100g chilled unsalted butter

150g plain flour

50g caster sugar and 1.5 tsp ground ginger, or grated fresh ginger

Rub all ingredients for crumble together with a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Filling:

400g rhubarb stalks, sliced into 4cm lengths, tossed in juice of half a lemon

Base:

250g softened unsalted butter,

250g caster sugar,

4 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract

3Tbs natural yogurt

250g self raising flour

  1. Once crumble is made and rhubarb chopped, line a 22cm x 33cm traybake tin with baking paper or get your muffin cases ready.
  2. Heat oven, 180C / Gas 4.
  3. Beat softened butter for base with sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract and yogurt, beating.
  5. Beat in 250g SR flour and a pinch of salt, with any juices from the rhubarb.
  6. Spoon cake base into the tin, top with scattered chopped rhubarb and scatter over crumble, pressing in slightly.
  7. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes. Cool before slicing.

“Human growth is not like rhubarb

It can be nurtured and encouraged but it cannot be forced”

Andy Hargreaves

Now, and over the weekend, I’m looking forward to popping over to Fiesta Friday to join the party!

Eggs – 3 ways: Mayonnaise, Shakshuka, Hot souffle

Three easy, adaptable healthy recipes – ideal for the flexibility that’s called for when shopping and cooking in ‘lockdown’, if you’re lucky like us and have chickens!

Three super easy standby recipes which can each be adapted in many ways to suit the mood, and contents of the fridge / cupboard / herbs available.

Eggs are high in protein and beneficial fats (good sources of Omega 3 which is thought to be beneficial in terms of fighting depression, and promoting eye, brain and heart health). High in minerals such as Calcium, which benefits hair and bones, and iron. A great source of vitamins; particularly A, B vitamins, E and K.

So simple – amazingly packed super foods – not surprising considering they contain all the essential nutrients for turning a single cell into a healthy chicken!

Mayonnaise is a basic sauce, great on it’s own, flavoured, or used as a base to make lots of other sauces. For tartare sauce, stir finely chopped gherkins and parsley through the mayonnaise. For prawn cocktail (Marie Rose) sauce, stir in 1 tbsp tomato ketchup and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. For aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), make the mayonnaise with olive oil instead of sunflower oil and stir in two crushed garlic cloves at the end, or some crushed / finely chopped roasted garlic for a softer taste.  Add curry powder and apricot jam / mango chutney for curried mayonnaise… Experiment with different oils – as this is the main constituent of mayonnaise, the oil will have a great impact on the flavour. I prefer a light, neutral flavored oil for a clean taste (grape seed, avocado or canola oil). Experiment with olive oils – extra virgin can, I think, be overpowering so I prefer to use a brand that’s light and fruity. I think robust or spicy olive oils would be too much. You might also consider only replacing half of the oil called for in the recipe with olive oil and use something more neutral for the rest.

Shakshuka literally means ‘mixture’. It is a simple, healthy breakfast (or any time of day) dish originating from Israel and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. A fun, flexible ‘recipe’ which typically combines gently simmered tomatoes, onions, garlic, pimento, spices and soft poached eggs.  For a mediterranean influence, fry off chorizo or bacon first and top with basil and parmesan. Shakshuka is nourishing, filling and rewarding, in terms of all the different combinations you can successfully and easily combine.

Cheese Souffle: another easy, fun recipe which relies on a few basic ‘rules’ but is super flexible. The sauce can be prepared in advance, but the cooked souffles need to be served immediately. We’ve tried ‘twice baked’ but they’re not the same!

The Oaks West Sussex

Basic Mayonnaise Recipe

Keep slowly whisking to incorporate the oil and thicken the mayo
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper and other seasonings, to taste
  1. Use a sauce whisk or hand baloon whisk to whisk yolks and mustard.
  2. Very slowly add oil – almost drop by drop, whisking well between additions.
  3. The mayonnaise will gradually thicken and turn paler. Oil can be added a little faster as this happens and the mayonnaise emulsifies. Don’t Rush!
The Oaks West Sussex

Basic Shakshuka Recipe

Serves 2 – 6, depending on how hungry diners are, & how many eggs are used.

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin (and / or caraway / crushed coriander seeds)
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder, or less according to taste
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 large eggs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped – and / or any fresh herbs.

1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped bell pepper and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion softens.

2. Add garlic and spices, and other additions as wished such as chorizo, bacon… cook an additional minute.

3. Pour the can of tomatoes and juice into the pan. Break down the tomatoes with a large spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer.

4. Use your large spoon to make small wells in the sauce for each egg. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking.

5. Garnish with chopped cilantro and parsley / chervil. Adapt by serving sprinkled with parmesan or goats cheese, chives or basil, or with sour cream / yogurt.

The Oaks West Sussex

Basic Cheese Souffle

Serves 2

Variations – experiment! Whatever you add should be finely chopped so that it is evenly distributed and so the expanding eggs can lift it – large pieces will fall to the bottom of the souffle.

Don’t add more than about a half cup of any additional ingredient to the cheese mixture and make sure whatever you add is well-drained to avoid thinning the sauce. Try with different cheeses such as blue / gruyere…

Additional ingredients should be well drained and if raw, cooked in advance. Recipe below from BBC Good Food (Nick Nairn)

  1. Preheat the oven to 225C/425F/Gas 7 and place a baking sheet into the oven to heat up.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Brush 2 ramekins with a little melted butter and place in the fridge.
  3. Add plain flour to the pan with remaining melted butter. Stir until combined. Add Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Stir.
  4. Gradually add milk and cream, stirring. Cook over a low heat, stirring continuously, until thick and smooth. Allow to boil for two minutes, or until the mixture starts to leave the edges of the pan.
  5. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper and egg yolks. Cool slightly.
  6. Place the egg whites into a large bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Fold into the cheese mixture and gently spoon into the prepared ramekins.
  7. Place the ramekins onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until well-risen and golden-brown on top. Serve immediately.
Thanks Girls! Two of our happy layers, Ava and Clemmie.

Rudgwick, Wey-Arun Canal and Gibbons Mill circular Walk (21km / 13 miles).

A stunning 4.5 / 5 hour walk taking in panoramic views across the North Downs. Following the tranquil canal and straight, tree lined Downs Link Path, the historic route of a dismantled railway (1861 – 1963) connecting Christ’s Hospital to Shoreham. The route also includes several bluebell woodland – often with very rooty pathways – and grassy meadows, bordered with thick frames of wild chives and other flowers.

An added quirky feature of this walk is that it passes through a considerable farm which is the home of dozens of Alpacas and extremely friendly miniature ponies… tiny creatures, but clearly with big hearts!

Point to note – the final section of the route includes a huge number of styles, which may be in various states of repair / disrepair, so, in addition to the fact that fields with cows, and less ordinary livestock have to be travessed, possibly not ideal for dogs…

In order to start near home, we began the route at Leg 3, parking in Rudgwick near the Kings Head Pub, just 12 minutes drive from home / 7,8 miles. (Top of page 6, see link below).

The walk passes two other pubs, Sir Roger Tichborne in Alford & the Onslow Arms in Loxwood; both good watering holes.

Google Fancy Free Walks for the route and lots of interesting information about landmarks – see the link below:

http://www.fancyfreewalks.org/W.Sussex/Rudgwick.pdf?version=aug18

Today was the date for the London Marathon, which was cancelled due to the Coronavirus Lockdown; hence doing our own 26 mile ‘marathon’ – between us. How lucky we were, to be able to do so.

The Oaks

‘In times of uncertainty, let nature be your refuge’

A quote from Lucy Jones, journalist who writes about culture, science and nature, in a piece for the Guardian newspaper on 20th March 2020. 20.03.20 The Guardian – Let Nature be our Refuge

4 minute read

‘A week is a long time in Politics’, Harold Wilson observed serving as our Labour prime minister at a time, around the period of my birth, of huge industrial and social change. And now, as I enter the second half of my first centenary(!), it seems that a day is a long time… When Lucy Jones wrote her piece, all National Trust gardens were planning to open free to all, in recognition of the importance of the outdoors, nature, and the opportunity, particularly in times of stress and uncertainty, for people to slow down and really appreciate the everyday things.

It’s those small, natural things that still inspire and that we grasp onto for hope. Not our technology, our fancy cars, holidays, or new outfits…

A simple rainbow has become the symbol for our nation’s hope – and faith.

Now, a month further into Covid-19 ‘Lockdown’, and in line with most businesses and leisure attractions and even many parks across the country, National Trust have locked their gates. Until further notice.

Never has the country – the World – been through such unforeseen times. Never has a government had to envisage, carve out and steer a path through such unchartered territory. Balance and fight for the nation’s physical, economic, financial and mental health. Appearing daily at briefings to remind us all of the country’s simple strap line for the times – Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save lives. All previous priorities suddenly dropped. The focus of our leaders and ourselves switched, at breakneck speed. Desperately trying to get ahead of the virus – unforeseen enemy of such ferocious power and mystifying means that man, clever, First World as we are – masters of all we touch, creators of any whim we desire, can still not understand, nor defeat. So we are left hiding away. Battening down the hatches. Closing our front doors. Closing our accounts with the local health club, cancelling holidays, weddings, nights out at the pub…

NOT getting all dressed up

NO where to go,

NO one to see. ..

And so we reflect

As a nation, each one of us re evaluates life

Questions and asks ourselves – ask others – what is important.

And as the materialistic, human world shuts down, the Natural World unfolds. Like a beautiful, simple blossom in spring – quietly and reassuringly continuing the circle of life and in so doing bringing beauty and hope to the world for those who pause, and have the opportunity and eyes to notice.

Feelings are for those in flats, or shut in some other way – through confinement, physical disability without usual support, or in mentally destructive relationships or circumstances, without their usual windows to the world.

As we started this period, the daffodils were trumpeting in glorious swathes across the garden. Heralding Spring as nature wakes for another year – hoards of yellow and white heads, proudly and happily smiling in warm gaggles as we humans locked down for our open ended period of ‘UK Shut’… ‘Social Isolation’. Isolation has now morphed, verbally, to ‘distancing’ – aware that casually chosen language can have severe unintended consequences… but the effects remain deep and probably life changing for each of us.

How apt, 118 years after being written, is Wordsworth’s poem about that feeling of painful, rooted isolation – and the joy that nature can bring; both at the time of experiencing it, and later.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.


The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

2020 is loading..!

3 minute read

2020: will this be the decade of true progress in worldwide environmental issues? It needs to be, if we are to continue to enjoy our ‘wonderful world’.

We postponed our family Christmas celebrations this year until Boxing day due to family work schedules. So took the opportunity, on what must have been one of the sunniest winter days of 2019, to have a wonderful, long – and very muddy walk. Revelling in the myriad of gifts that nature has given, all around us.

Knepp Estate

Having learnt a lot about ‘Rewilding’ our local 3,500 estate at Knepp was the perfect destination. A remarkable project, on our doorstep – and a stunning natural mix of habitats. Home to a variety of ‘free roaming herbivores’ including majestic Red Deer, magnificent Long Horn cattle, enormously tubby Tamworth pigs and shaggy Exmoor ponies. Free willed as well as free roaming, we tried to stick to the footpaths as requested, but did have to make a very small diversion as a huge stag clearly was not going to move from one pathway, and you don’t argue with an 8′ + stag! Similarly, a family of Longhorns took some time before moving to the side of the path so we could drive off the estate – I finally worked up the courage to pass them, fully aware that one of their fine horns could scrape a deep trench all the way along our new car … but all was well.

Just 20 minutes away, it is certainly worth a visit – but take your wellies! Click here for an online map of public footpaths & bridleways crossing the stunning estate.

After 4 hours of rambling, we drove the 20 minutes back to The Oaks for a very late Christmas Day lunch – as simple and ‘back to nature’ as the day had been. Time for feasting on Boxing Day. Christmas 2019 was about celebrating nature, and how lucky we are to live surrounded by it.

Sunset on Christmas Day

‘Red Sky at Night’bodes well for the future 🙂 . Let’s hope it can be a kinder life for us all.

Let’s hope the 20s see real progress towards a kinder life for all, and understanding of the importance of appreciating our finely balanced natural environment. Rewilding parts of the british countryside is one interesting step – more details here, & elsewhere on the web… well worth thinking about!

More Harvest: 2019 Grape Juice

4 minute read

Do not measure success by today’s harvest. Measure success by the seeds you plant today’. Robert Lewis Stevenson

Anti-oxidants galore

We have a vine winding its way across the front of the main house – producing small black grapes. I intended to make jelly, but decided on a high antioxidant drink instead, and made copious quantities of grape juice., with the help of my trusty Vitamix. Some for the freezer, and lots just for drinking – to keep the colds away as Winter approaches 🙂

‘Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Sun Baby’ (yellow) & ‘BlackCherry’

Harlequin Tomatoes

We grew tiny red, yellow and black tomatoes this year – all cropped well. I learnt that tomatoes grow better in pots that aren’t black, as the roots can overheat in the sun. Home grown toms are such a luxury; I’m savouring our last bowl of the season – as near to Sweets as I will ever get!

‘Home grown’ potpourri: Keep topped up with rose oil & it will look and smell wonderful

Home grown room fragrancer

Our wild deer and rabbits have not yet acquired a taste for roses, and this year has been a great one for repeat flowering, so I have lots of dried petals. For a seasonal touch, I’ll add cinnamon sticks and orange peel studded with cloves to the bowl at Christmas, but other than that, keeping topped up with Rose Essential Oil does the trick. Best to buy it from a shop (I’ve had a few bad internet buys of oils, which I haven’t even dared pour down the sink for fear of upsetting the bugs in our bio-digester…!)

All Kale & lettuce is rabbit proofed in the kitchen garden opposite the Annexe!

We still have aubergines, chillis, cut & come again lettuce and herbs, (other than basil, which has finished for the season) to harvest. Curly Kale is one of my favourite vegetables, and full of vitamins, fibre, and even protein – I’ve planted young plants and look forward to harvesting later in the Autumn, and through the winter months: delicious!

Horsham Events: Americarna 2019!

Miles and Miles of Smiles 🙂

Even for me – who’s not really a car enthusiast!

The combination of a huge array of well loved, pampered brightly coloured cars in all shapes and sizes (with doting owners to match!), ‘Elvis’ and his chicks playing in the bandstand, busy market stalls and people enjoying a sunday afternoon on the cobbled streets of Horsham – browsing, sitting at cafes or watching the bandstand show, couldn’t fail to bring a huge smile to anyone’s face.

And all in aid of St Catherine’s Hospice. A local, and very well supported hospice; many events are organised throughout the year to raise funds, and this weekend’s Americarna was an example of how well supported, imaginative, and meticulously organised those events are.

Horsham’s Americarna 2019

Apparently around 400 cars, vintage bikes and other vehicles were expected for this year’s event – the third to be held; each year’s seems to get bigger and better. As so often the case with Horsham events, the whole day was enriched with bands playing in the bandstand throughout the day – their music being piped all over the central Horsham area, to everyone’s delight. The finale was a stream of vintage American Police Cars skirting the ring road, sirens and lights blazing – a wonderful sight, and again, one that could not fail to bring a smile, even on what was, underneath all the fun, a drizzly grey Sunday 🙂

If you’ve been to Cuba, you may, like me, get a feeling of Deja Vu… Havana in Horsham (just ignore the weather!)

Horsham’s market stalls – always relied upon for great locally produced alcoholic drinks, and yummy bakes
The Oaks
West Sussex accommodation